Monday, October 8, 2012

The Girl Who Liked Hemingway

I didn't win the pageant
because those bitches wouldn't know beauty if it beat them over their 'do's with a porch plank.

My Mediterranean sultriness was not what they were looking for;
them with their politeness and their narrow-lipped smiles holding back the churning reflux that their hearts produce.

They are not human.

As a baby, I was different.
I spoke within minutes, asking for a mirror before milk,
and sharing Portuguese brandy with my father in the library before the month was out.

Let others become checkers at Target.
Let others slave in the shamba under a broiling sun.
They do not have my sculptured cheekbones,
and so must scramble and struggle while I laze under an awning in a cafe,
accepting the dazzled worship of waiters named Jean-Guy.

But look, it hasn't been all roses and honey, just the same.
I stayed barefoot until I was twelve, by choice.
I whipped all the local boys,
and was the terror of the American compound.

I first considered pageants when I was caught siphoning gas from a diplomat's car.
(I had wanted to burn down Amber Rae's house; she was a stumbling calf
with a big mouth, and a throat just made for my reply.)
The diplomat took me inside and stood with his back to me,
gazing through his wife's sheer curtains at the stucco buildings across the street, and said,

"There are other things
you could be doing."

Soon I was shivering,
my arm dangling boneless over the edge of the dining room table,
smiling at the patterned copper ceiling.
I had still been in command of myself when he lost all his polish and said things to me that were not diplomatic, but rather,
the shouts of a drowning man finding shore.

So anyway,
these bitches looked at me critically, as if I were a steer at auction,
each of them a little complacent fat cask of petty.
I knew I couldn't win,
and my mind turned, as it always has,
toward ways to rain down destruction upon my enemies' heads.

I have a little French cahier
that I write down my dreams and plans in.
If the gendarmes ever find it, I'm so fucked.

But never mind.
The world of pageants plateaus early--
you're done at twenty, turned loose in the streets to blink big-eyed
at the onrushing autobus that will flatten you dead.
Does this sound like me?
Does it?

I am a girl who will never need a raincoat,
because it never dares to rain on my perfect creamy shoulders.
I own no pearls,
but I have six different sets of Ben Wa balls,
one for each day of the week, and then I go to Mass on Sunday.

I didn't win the pageant,
but I escaped to Algiers and met a man.
In the morning, we start out together for Kilimanjaro--
I shall be barefoot, in my element once more,
and McComber will have some sort of accident and leave everything to me.

Heft those trunks, bush guides,
I forgot my mirror and am keen to retrieve it
so that I may kiss my image as one would Cerberus,
if he were female
and as pretty as me.

for Flipside's word list 15: Mediterranean, siphon, brandy, destruction, cafe, cahier, raincoat, narrow-lipped, barefoot, pearls, sculptured, mirror, critically, casks, plateau, politeness, awning, curtains, shivering and shamba. (words taken from Ernest Hemingway's "The Garden Of Eden")

Also linked to real Toads open link Monday.



Lynn said...

That is wonderful that you were able to put that together from Ernest Hemingway's words. I've been on a Hemingway kick this summer.

Daryl said...

it had a definite Papa feel ... if Papa were a lesbian ;)

Kerry O'Connor said...

What a story to lose oneself in! I love this character's grasp of self - both the good and badness of her.
I thought this a pivotal statement:
The world of pageants plateaus early-
one is done at twenty, turned loose in the streets to blink big-eyed
at the onrushing autobus that will flatten you dead...

I'm glad this girl had a Plan B, though the African continent may not be her best backdrop ever., being hot and squalid for the most part.

hedgewitch said...

Agree with Daryl, there is a random angsty Hemingway-ness to the progression of this twisty narrative--but the writer I see most at work here is someone named Fireblossom, painting an idiosyncratic emotional portrait from the inside out, all the hidden exposed, all the exposed, celebrated. Too many good lines to quote, but especially liked 'kiss my image as one would Cerberus..' and '...complacent fat cask of petty...'

Laura said... the raging river of a journey continuing here.

Herotomost said...

Holy crap...that was bad girl sexy....and I mean sexy. Grand, heavy unadulterated sigh.....

Far Beyond The Ridge said...

Oh, baby! "the shouts of a drowning man reaching shore"
That is so perfect!
Only you could write a delicious novel in twenty minutes. I'm full.
Not even gonna mention the ben wa's. Nope. Too easy.
But this girl is so easy to fall in love with as she exposes all in her path of conquer and destroy.
And "a well lit cafe" is still my fave short story. Can't read it w/out a cig.
I'll always hate faulkner for saying of ernie~"well, he never made anyone run for a dictionary"
The bastard!

Carrie Burtt said...

You have painted quite a fantastic character here should continue this on in a squal!

TexWisGirl said...

lordy, lordy!

Timoteo said...

Yes, the pageant industry's idea of beauty is a narrow criterion where only the tall and gangly misfits from high school who went out and got boob jobs are considered worthy...

I had to check to make sure "Ben-wa balls" wasn't one of Hemingway's words!

Anonymous said...

I'm already loving it. But I've just gotten here:

"There are other things
you could be doing."

... and I suspect things are about to get very interesting. ;)

I love this: "my arm dangling boneless"

"I had still been in command of myself when he lost all his polish and said things to me that were not diplomatic" ... Yup. This is getting pretty good.

"If the gendarmes ever find it, I'm so fucked." ... Ha! I don't believe in journals for that very reason. :)

"I shall be barefoot, in my element once more" ... Ah, there is hope. I'm glad of it.

The fourth stanza is my favorite. Excellent storytelling, my dear. Thank you for writing. I knew you would have fun with these words.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Fantastic story, so well told. You could write novels!! You took those words to places even Hemingway would not have thought of!

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

Much story and also much depth we see in this character--great write!

Kimolisa said...

I could read this over and over. I loved it so much that I'm speechless. LOL

Cloudia said...

digesting your opening trio of lines that I love savoring

Aloha from Waikiki,
Have a sweet week
Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

Buddah Moskowitz said...

There is an overflowing confidence to this writing. I think this is a thinly veiled autobiography. Well done, my friend.

aprille said...

How DO you dream it up!
Unbelievable. This is the best justification for working with given words that I have come across.

Anonymous said...

This is some powerful and powerfully fine story telling.

Anonymous said...

Love that image, by the way. And now I'm craving a Coke.

Mama Zen said...

Like Lynn, I've been reading Hemingway again lately. He wasn't this cool.

HermanTurnip said...

Oh, but youth and beauty is so fleeting a thing...

Shadow said...

are you actually allowed to love yourself so much????

Mary said...

Wonderful character study of one who knew how to make sparks fly as well as ignite them.

Margaret said...

Picked up a few 1st editions in Petoskey this summer of Hemingway's for $10. (don't think they knew they were first editions) Don't think his stories had this much zing, though. The Diplomat looking through the sheer curtains made my skin crawl... Powerful character study!

Kay L. Davies said...

"They do not have my sculptured cheekbones, and so must scramble and struggle while I laze under an awning in a cafe, accepting the dazzled worship of waiters named Jean-Guy."
This made me laugh, Shay.
I've never dared try channeling someone as daring as Hemingway, for I am merely a mouse who used to be a bit of a tomboy, but you have excelled here. Love it!

Anonymous said...

Wow. There is so much here to love, I cannot even pick a favorite line. What a likable hard@$$ this chick is. :)

Anonymous said...

gotta get those pelvic exercises in every day ~ are you sure it's safe to skip Sunday? {grin}

Tatius T. Darksong said...

Now this was a story it really draws you in, now tell me there is more coming..